Responding to the Global Detention Project Covid-19 survey, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Tunis office reported that on 7 April 2020, the government held an inter-ministerial meeting, which included the Interior Ministry, to discuss measures to be taken with respect to migrants in response to the pandemic. These included the suspension of visa termination dates, financial assistance, and non-arrest for irregular residence for those already in the country. However, the IOM said that they were not aware of any migration detainees being released during the pandemic.
While no arrests appear to have been made for immigration-related reasons during the confinement period, according to IOM, people attempting to enter the country without authorisation continue to be arrested (the country has closed its borders until 27 June). These people are supposed to be tested for Covid-19, if the tests are negative, may be referred to humanitarian assistance agencies for accommodation and care, including the IOM, Red Crescent, and Terre d’Asile. However, the IOM pointed out that they are not present at points of entry so could not confirm all the procedures that may be taken.
Anyone arrested following a judicial decision is to be tested for Covid-19 and is to spend 14 days in confinement. The IOM said that authorities prepared specific spaces for solitary confinement within places of detention.
During the pandemic, deportations were reportedly halted and Tunisia adopted mechanisms for the inclusion of vulnerable migrants in financial aid programs and health care so that movement was minimised while ensuring that migrants arrested for irregular border crossings were tested for Covid-19 and referred to aid organisations.
- International Organisation for Migration (Paola Pace), Global Detention Project Covid-19 survey, 24 June 2020.
- Migrants Carrying Aid Boxes Distributed at the Raoued Town Hall in Tunis, (Mohamed Messara, EPA, “53% of Migrants Lost Jobs in Tunisia in COVID-19 lockdown,” Info Migrants, 8 May 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/24614/53-of-migrants-lost-jobs-in-tunisia-in-covid-19-lockdown)